May 15, 2015

Why It's Tricky to Support Draw Muhammad Contests

Okay! So I've been holding back on talking about this too much, because it's definitely a polarising issue, and honestly hardly anybody even knows who the organisation that held the event are, much less do they really care.

But it's definitely a topic that I find fascinating.

By now, all, or at the very least most of us, have heard about the shooting in Garland, Texas over a "Draw the Prophet Muhammad" contest. Thankfully, the attempted terrorists didn't hurt anybody and as other people have observed, two potential terrorists have been eliminated.

One may argue that that was the goal of the event in addition to exercising the freedom of speech (which yes, does include the right to be offensive). But see, I don't see it that way.

The Muslims are coming!

The organisation that held the contest are known by two names: The "American Freedom Defense Initiative", who's claimed goals are to protect the right to religious worship and the right of freedom of speech, and "Stop Islamification of America", who's stated goal should be obvious based on their name alone. For simplicity, I will refer to the organisation as the "AFDI" for the rest of this article.

The last time the AFDI entered the public's conversation was in 2010 when their president and co-founder, conservative activist and blogger Pamela Geller dubbed the Park51 community building the "Ground Zero Mosque" and staged protests with her organisation. The AFDI were at the front of the misinformation regarding the community building.

Despite 2010 being the last time they gained national public attention, they have accumulated a laundry list of controversy ever since. In 2011, the Southern Poverty Law Center proclaimed the AFDI, SIOA, SION, and Geller's blog "Atlas Shrugs" as hate groups due to their constant anti-Muslim propaganda in the New York area.

American Freedom Defense Initiative Advertisement

In addition, Geller herself is considered by the Southern Poverty Law Center as being part of the inner circle of the anti-Muslim movement in America, has been invited to speak at a German neo-fascist rally, and supports the English Defence League, a British anti-Muslim hate group who purposely try to provoke violent response.

At its core, the event that the AFDI held is no different than "Draw Muhammad Day"; a day where people draw the Prophet Muhammad to make a statement of their right to free speech, which includes being able to criticise a religion, not be part of a religion, and the right to not be killed for offending a person and their religion.

However, I find it completely improbable that Geller and the AFDI truly hold these same motives. Sure, they say that in their event, they're making a statement of their right to free speech much in the same way that "Draw Muhammad Day", but given the opportunity, she would happily censor any speech that caters to or speaks of Muslims in a positive light. Then again, in their metro-transit advertising campaigns, they make claims that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim, therefore claiming all Muslims are terrorists, so that should speak for itself.

Liberal Douche Garofalo meme
Pamela Geller in a nutshell

Given Geller's and the AFDI's history and their reputation, I'm only convinced that part of why they held this event was to provoke a violent response from the surrounding Muslims (who, by the way, laughed it off and even refused to peacefully protest the event) so that they can point their elongated fingers and scream about how right they are about how all Muslims are terrorists and that they're being persecuted. It's literally taking a bat to a hornet's nest and then complaining about hornets attacking you.

All of that being said, this isn't a call to end events such as these and "Draw Muhammad Day"; I do believe that we need to have these kinds of events. The only catch to that however, is that we must have these events entirely with the purpose of freedom of speech, which includes the freedom to not be killed when we offend an individual and their religious belief system. To hold an event such as this with the intention to piss off an individual and make them into a statistic is entirely dishonest and immoral.

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day

To quote somebody who I had an earlier discussion about this with,

"This story puts me in an odd intellectual and moral position. It's sort of like where Superman and Lex Luthor team up to fight some bigger, stronger enemy. You REALLY want Superman to win against the big bad guy, but you HATE that he is working with Lex Luthor. And while you want to applaud Lex for doing some good by helping Superman, you know he is doing it for some ulterior, seedy reason. You know that the second he gets the chance, he will screw over Superman or is doing this just so he alone can continue to try and take over Metropolis instead of having to share the stage with this bigger evil.

That is how I see AFDI and their leader."

And I completely agree.

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author Tighe Craven About Tiger
Tiger is a 23 year old college student, activist, and professional
living in the Saint Louis area. When he's not being apathetic to the
idea of God or writing about atheism, he is doing public speaking
about mental illness and is a photographer and a bassist.